How To Build A Racing Or Flight Simulator Computer Part 3

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Let’s talk a bit about the simulators and games themselves.  Chances are you went into this after seeing footage or someone else dive bomb targets in IL-2 Sturmovik or take their racing line in iRacing, and you have you heart set on not just a genre, but on a specific title.  Well, you’re in luck, in part three we are going to go over specific games and the best setups for them, so grab your aviator’s cap or racing gloves and let’s dive in.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

How-to-Build-a-Racing-or-Flight-Simulator-Computer-Part-3
How to Build a Racing or Flight Simulator Computer Part 3

Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the standard by which all other flight simulation is measured.  It’s been around since 2006, and the graphics show its age, but you simply can’t get a more complete flight experience from any other single simulator.  It has military aircraft, commercial aircraft, helicopters, an even retro aircraft from World War II.  You won’t have any trouble finding peripheral that’s directly compatible with this sim, but be warned that the official multiplayer servers were closed in 2012.

System Requirements

  • XP /Vista /Windows 7
  • Processor: 1 GHz
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Hard Drive: 14GB
  • Video Card: 32MB
  • Internet Speed: 56.6 kbps

Recommended System Requirements

  • Processor : 3.6 GHz  or better
  • RAM:  2048 MB or more
  • Video Card : 512 MB or better

You might notice that the minimum requirements and the recommended PC stats are vastly different.  Get used to that, those minimum settings will get you the title screen and a slide show on most of these simulators.  In most cases, even if you did turn everything off you needed to run these games on lower end machines, you wouldn’t want to because most of the simulation will get turned off with it, and in that case there are tons of cheaper and more accessible “arcade style” games that will work better for you.    Keep in mind that FSX is CPU intensive, so the video card doesn’t matter as much as your processor and it doesn’t make good use of multiple cores or video cards.  Here’s what you need to get the most out of your FSX experience. Budget Setup

  • Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Bundle
    • Includes Pedals, Yoke, Trim Wheel, and a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold
    • Total Price: $460

Premium Setup

  • Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Extreme Bundle
    • Includes Pedals, Yoke, Trim Wheel, Full Instrument Panel Set, Radio Panel, Switch Panel, Throttle Setup, and Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold
    • Total Price: $1700

Pilot Mall has what you need when it comes to getting the most out of FSX.  They have several pre-bundled packages, of which the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna bundle is the best value for a complete peripheral set bundled with the game and all of its add-ons.  For those who want to go all the way, the Extreme Bundle gives you a full set of Saitek equipment from their Cessna line, which is all modeled after real Cessna instruments. These of course aren’t your only options, as Microsoft Flight Simulator X is considered the standard in flight simulation, there is a ton of peripheral out there directly compatible with FSX.   If there’s a plane you love and you want to model your home cockpit off of it, chances are you can find peripheral to make that happen (or with a little ingenuity, make your own).

IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946: 1946 is a collection including the original IL-2 along with all of its expansions and add-ons that to date includes 79 aircraft and 41 maps.  It’s one of the most supported simulators out there getting patches as recent as 2012 and with future content still planned for the future.  If you are a World War II enthusiast or a dogfight junkie, this is your game.  You can fly for nearly every participant in the second world war including the Netherlands, the USSA, USSR, Germany, the Finland, and many more.   The game sports some insanely realistic setting options, including pilot injury, capture, and dynamic campaign.

Min System Requirements

  • XP /Vista /Windows 7
  • Processor: 1.0 GHz
  • RAM:  512MB
  • Hard Drive: 4GB
  • Video Card: 64MB DirectX 9 compatible
  • Internet Speed: 64 kbps

Recommended System Requirements

  • Processor: 4.2 GHz  or better
  • RAM: 1024MB or more
  • Video Card : 512 MB or better

IL-2 isn’t nearly as resource intensive as FSX on the whole, but you should really have a decent video card and processor to run the simulation aspect of the game properly.  Because this game focuses on combat, multi-monitor setups are going to give you a huge advantage, and make things far more realistic.  With the realism options all turned on, I’d almost say that it’s necessary to have ether a multi-monitor setup and/or head tracking hardware like TrackIR 5.  You can get taken out in an instant from anywhere, and situational awareness is key to survival. Budget Setup

  • Saitek Aviator
  • Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946
    • The Aviator is made for Il-2
    • Total Price: $135

Premium Setup

  • Mad Catz F.L.Y. 5
  • Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
  • Track IR 5
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946
    • The F.L.Y. 5 from Mad Catz is a premium joystick that has everything IL-2 needs.  As stated before, head tracking software improves the experience drastically, and you can’t go wrong with Track IR 5.
    • Total Price: $300

Unfortunately, unlike commercial and modern military aircraft simulation there isn’t a whole lot out there to give your home cockpit a vintage WWII feel. The good news is that old aircraft like that didn’t have a lot of gadgets, and IL-2 has everything they did have in the cockpit working in the game itself.  The Saitek Aviator kind of has the look at the base, but the best bet if you just need to feel leather and steel is to do some custom work yourself on any peripheral.  Otherwise the Aviator is a great choice for the price and was made with IL-2 in mind. If you are willing to spend some extra coin, the F.L.Y. 5 is a great alternative, and anyone serious about the campaign mode on the realistic settings needs to get head tracking or go multi-monitor. Racing Simulators Unlike flight sims, racing sims don’t really need a lot of different peripheral for different games. Because of this, I would refer you back to part one for an overview of the best wheel and pedal sets, and part two for how to pimp out your racing seat.  What we really need to dwell on is whether or not your PC can handle the different titles.  Racing simulators are more graphically intense than flight simulators, in part because they don’t use the hardware to run the physics as much, and in part because racing fans demand bleeding edge realism when looking at their sweet rides.  With that in mind let’s head to the starting line.

iRacing is the premier online racing simulator with partnerships including NASCAR, GRAND-AM, IndyCar, SCCA, Williams F1, and many others.  It sports accurate tracks, real cars, a competitive community, championship brackets, and persistently updating content for subscribers.   Uniquely, it supports touch screen controls for those with touch capable gaming laptops or tablets running Windows.

Min System Requirements

  • XP /Vista /Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2
or higher
  • RAM:  512MB
  • Hard Drive: 6 GB free
  • Video Card: GeForce 7800 (NVidia) / Radeon X1800 (ATI) or above
  • Other: Firefox 15, Internet Explorer 8, or Google Chrome 20
  • Internet Speed: DSL, Cable, Fiber, 128K or faster

rFactor 2Min System Requirements

  • XP /Vista /Windows 7
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2
or higher
  • RAM:  2048 MB or more
  • Hard Drive: 4 GB free
  • Video Card: 256MB
  • Internet Speed: DSL, Cable, Fiber, 128K or faster

rFactor is considered the most accurate racing simulator out there, so much so that there is a non-commercial version for professional purposes.  You see those minimum requirements up there?  You need to overshoot those to do this game justice.  I wouldn’t touch this game without four gigs of RAM and a fairly modern video card.  This game is compatible with a lot of the extra peripheral like motion seats and such (much more than most games).  If accuracy matters more than graphics, this is your title. Need for Speed Shift 2 – Unleashed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Min. System Requirements

  • XP /Vista /Windows 7
  • Processor: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2
or higher
  • RAM:  2048 MB or more
  • Hard Drive: 7 GB free
  • Video Card: 512MB
  • Internet Speed: DSL, Cable, Fiber, 128K or faster

Maybe the standard simulator is a bit too stale for you.  You want to feel like you are in the cockpit, hear all the sounds, have to deal with the glare and get your view obscured by your helmet as you get jostled around.  Shift 2 is the game for you.  The downside is that the game doesn’t have official TrackIR support (though there is an unofficial patch for it), but on the upside it has native multi-monitor support , so it should take less tweaking to get it centered properly (and no pesky third party software).

The realism and simulation isn’t too shabby ether.  This game really does push your machine hard, so I’d recommend this only for top of the line rigs, regardless of the minimum requirements. This concludes our three part series on how to build a racing or flight simulation setup at home.  You don’t have to be rich to build your own personal cockpit, but it does take a little research and a bit more effort, but it’s all worth it when you can fly over the skies of Leningrad or take that hard turn at Atlanta Motor Speedway from the comfort of your own living room and still feel like you’re really there.

Follow Zachary Freeman:

Zachary Freeman is the former owner and co-founder of an IT firm that specialized in custom hardware and software solutions. With over a decade of experience building custom PCs and years spend behind a keyboard and mouse fighting off the Horde, Kilrathi, the Empire, and the likes of Shodan and the Zerg, I've taken my knowledge to the web so I can share my tales and expertise. .

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